Two-thirds of COPD patients not using inhalers correctly



– Two-thirds of U.S. adults with COPD or asthma are making multiple errors in using their metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), according to new research. About half of patients failed to inhale slowly and deeply to ensure they received the appropriate dose, and about 40% of patients failed to hold their breath for 5-10 seconds afterward so that the medication made its way to their lungs, the findings show.

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“There’s a need to educate patients on proper inhalation technique to optimize the appropriate delivery of medication,” Maryam Navaie, DrPH, of Advance Health Solutions in New York told attendees at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians. She also urged practitioners to think more carefully about what devices to prescribe to patients based on their own personal attributes.

“Nebulizer devices may be a better consideration for patients who have difficulty performing the necessary steps required by handheld inhalers,” Dr. Navaie said.

She and fellow researchers conducted a systematic review to gain more insights into the errors and difficulties experienced by U.S. adults using MDIs for COPD or asthma. They combed through PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane, and Google Scholar databases for English language studies about MDI-related errors in U.S. adult COPD or asthma patients published between January 2003 and February 2017.

The researchers included only randomized controlled trials and cross-sectional and observational studies, and they excluded studies with combined error rates across multiple devices so they could better parse out the data. They also used baseline rates only in studies that involved an intervention to reduce errors.

The researchers defined the proportion of overall MDI errors as “the percentage of patients who made errors in equal to or greater than 20% of inhalation steps.” They computed pooled estimates and created forest plots for both overall errors and for errors according to each step in using an MDI.

The eight studies they identified involved 1,221 patients, with ages ranging from a mean 48 to 82 years, 53% of whom were female. Nearly two-thirds of the patients had COPD (63.6%) while 36.4% had asthma. Most of the devices studied were MDIs alone (68.8%), while 31.2% included a spacer.

The pooled weighted average revealed a 66.5% error rate, that is, two-thirds of all the patients were making at least two errors during the 10 steps involved in using their device. The researchers then used individual error rates data in five studies to calculate the overall error rate for each step in using MDIs. The most common error, made by 73.8% of people in those five studies, was failing to attach the inhaler to the spacer. In addition, 68.7% of patients were failing to exhale fully and away from the inhaler before inhaling, and 47.8% were inhaling too fast instead of inhaling deeply.

“So these [findings] actually give you [some specific] ideas of how we could help improve patients’ ability to use the device properly,” Dr. Navaie told attendees, adding that these data can inform patient education needs and interventions.

Based on the data from those five studies, the error rates for all 10 steps to using an MDI were as follows:

  • Failed to shake inhaler before use (37.9%).
  • Failed to attach inhaler to spacer (73.8%).
  • Failed to exhale fully and away from inhaler before inhalation (68.7%).
  • Failed to place mouthpiece between teeth and sealed lips (7.4%).
  • Failed to actuate once during inhalation (24.4%).
  • Inhalation too fast, not deep (47.8%).
  • Failed to hold breath for 5-10 seconds (40.1%).
  • Failed to remove the inhaler/spacer from mouth (11.3%).
  • Failed to exhale after inhalation (33.2%).
  • Failed to repeat steps for second puff (36.7%).

Dr. Navaie also noted the investigators were surprised to learn that physicians themselves sometimes make several of these errors in explaining to patients how to use their devices.

“I think for the reps and other people who go out and visit doctors, it’s important to think about making sure the clinicians are using the devices properly,” Dr. Navaie said. She pointed out the potential for patients to forget steps between visits.

“One of the things a lot of our clinicians and key opinion leaders told us during the course of this study is that you shouldn’t just educate the patient at the time you are scripting the device but repeatedly because patients forget,” she said. She recommended having patients demonstrate their use of the device at each visit. If patients continue to struggle, it may be worth considering other therapies, such as a nebulizer, for patients unable to regularly use their devices correctly.

The meta-analysis was limited by the sparse research available in general on MDI errors in the U.S. adult population, so the data on error rates for each individual step may not be broadly generalizable. The studies also did not distinguish between rates among users with asthma vs. users with COPD. Further, too few data exist on associations between MDI errors and health outcomes to have a clear picture of the clinical implications of regularly making multiple errors in MDI use.

Dr. Navaie is employed by Advance Health Solutions, which received Sunovion Pharmaceuticals funding for the study.

SOURCE: Navaie M et al. CHEST 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2018.08.705.

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